Fyre Festival founder released from prison early

Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges.
Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges. Copyright Mark Lennihan/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By Jonny Walfisz
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Billy McFarland was serving a six-year sentence for two counts of wire fraud.


Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland has been released from prison early.

McFarland organised the infamous and fraudulent Fyre Festival in 2017. After the disastrous festival, multiple attendees sued for damages and McFarland pled guilty to multiple counts of fraud.

In 2018, McFarland was given a six-year prison sentence.

What happened at Fyre Festival?

Located on a beach in the Bahamas, the glamorous and wannabe glamorous flocked to McFarland’s promised luxury music festival.

But all was not as it seemed when the punters arrived. Far from the lap of luxury, guests arrived to see unfinished stages, tents instead of fancy accommodation, and a notoriously rubbish welcome meal of some pre-sliced cheese and salad on bread.

McFarland founded Fyre Festival with rapper Ja Rule. As part of their advertising scheme, they employed influencers including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski to post on Instagram about the festival. The influencers didn’t clearly disclose that it was a paid advert though. McFarland also falsely claimed the location was on Pablo Escobar’s private island.

More ambitious than his budget allowed, McFarland promised investors and attendees that he’d stage a festival he couldn’t afford. In the run-up to the festival, the luxury villas planned had to be scrapped as there was no budget for them. Then the star-studded line-up of acts including Pusha T, Tyger, Blink-182, Disclosure, Migos, and Skepta all pulled out.

To cover the escalating loans McFarland took out to try and finance the festival, he set up a scheme for attendees to pre-pay for bracelets they could use to buy food and drinks on the site.

When the festival was meant to take place, 5,000 people had bought tickets.

Five hundred people arrived and were kept in a gazebo for an “impromptu beach party” while organisers scrambled to finish the site. When they were allowed on-site, there wasn’t enough tents for all the 500 people who had actually arrived.

Guests were then stranded on the island as flights were cancelled by the Bahamian government, only able to leave a day later.

McFarland’s prison time

The collapse of Fyre Festival was a massive spectacle over social media, and two documentaries have covered what happened in the fiasco.

McFarland and Ja Rule were hit with multiple lawsuits for fraud and other charges seeking out damages.

Then McFarland was investigated by the FBI for mail fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud. After pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud, he was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to hand over $26 million.

McFarland spent his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution, Elkton in Ohio.

McFarland’s lawyers initially asked for his release in 2020, but it was denied. That year, he had started a podcast from prison called ‘Dumpster Fyre’, to share his side of what happened during the festival.

Because of the podcast, McFarland was given special protection and placed in solitary confinement for six months.

Now, four years into his six-year sentence, he has been released.


Maybe don’t expect a Fyre Festival season 2, though.

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